NWI Ph.D. Student Selected for local TEDx Conference

NWI Ph.D. student Joseph Dannemiller gives his talk at the local TEDx Conference on campus.

(Above photo): NWI Ph.D. student Joseph Dannemiller lectures during a recent TEDx Conference on campus about the efficacy of storm shelters in severe wind events.


“Disruptive ideas are taking shape across the Texas Tech University System, and the time has come to share those ideas with each other and the world…”

The TED talks are a familiar force for innovative ideas on-line, and last weekend saw the culmination of two years’ work in the sold-out TEDx conference event held on campus at Lanier Center at the Texas Tech University School of Law.

TED is an acronym that refers to “Technology, Education and Design”, and with such a wide range of topics from poetry to cryopreservation techniques for equines to how to tie your shoelaces more efficiently, 3-D printing and more, this local conference took TED’s motto of “Ideas worth Spreading” idea to heart. With the theme of “Open Skies, Open Minds”, it was a packed event and sold-out, according to conference organizers.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to “Ideas worth Spreading” and was started in 1984 to bring collaboration between three very different worlds: technology, entertainment, and design. Currently, on the TED website, more than 1500 talks are available to all with an internet connection, and, in line with TED’s mission, all of them can be freely shared and reposted.

Dr. Ron Banister, a physician from TTUHSC, kicked off the event when he said “We all have a passion for sharing new ideas… This is a day of innovation and inspiration for both speakers and participants.” TTU President Dr. M. Duane Nellis’ introduction supported this idea, saying “We need to remain on the competitive edge as the world innovates around us…” And this enthusiasm for the new and different was evident in the audience who were a diverse group of both professionals and students, some of whom were still in high school.

NWI doctoral student Joseph Dannemiller was invited as one of the conference speakers to talk about wind hazard mitigation research, and to address the latest findings, especially that of the ongoing myth of the efficacy of above-ground storm shelters. (They’re as safe as below-ground shelters, according to NWI research.)

Dannemiller reports that since 1999 when the Wind Science and Engineering Research (now NWI) started testing storm shelters, more than 30,000 shelters have been installed nationwide. The tornado disaster of last May in Moore, OK, bought the importance of storm shelter education to the fore, and in his capacity as NWI student researcher, Dannemiller visited the small town just after that, a location that has been hit by tornadoes an incredible four times in the last four years. His research revealed that every single shelter and its occupants survived.

And so it’s an important lesson to learn: that above-ground shelters are just as safe as below-ground shelters. Oklahoma residents that were in the tornado area were being told by local TV stations that if they didn’t have a below-ground shelter to access, then their next step to survival was “to get out of town.” A large segment of the population followed that advice, which led to lengthy traffic snarls and a higher risk of being hit by severe winds whilst out in the open in their vehicles. Dannemiller’s message was that above-ground shelters are safe places to be during a severe wind event. – as safe as below-ground shelters and definitely much safer than being on the open road as a tornado is approaching.

Dannemiller’s talk was informative and cautionary, stating that “we need to have the same diligence [for storm safety] as we do for fire protection. My kids know all about “stop, drop and roll”, but they’re not half as familiar with what to do with a severe weather event. We need to change that.”

Check here for more info on the TED Talks project.


The stage is set for the TEDx Texas Tech Conference held at the TTU School of Law Lanier Center.

Photo/Story Credit: Liz Inskip-Paulk/NWI.